Saturday, December 20, 2014

Palo - Disney Magic

On our recent cruise on the Disney Magic, my husband and I dined at Palo for brunch and dinner.

Palo is an adults only restaurant that serves Northern Italian cuisine.  The charge is $25 per person for both brunch and dinner.  Reservations are required, and can be made online when your booking window opens, or onboard the ship.  

Brunch started with complimentary champagne cocktails.  

After touring the buffet with a chef, I was very concerned that there were bread items all over the buffet that could be dragged over the gluten free items, causing cross contamination.  I asked the chef if he could make me a plate of the items I was interested in in the back, which he gladly agreed to do. 

Another chef brought me a plate full of gluten free bread, which I enjoyed with my mozzarella, tomatoes, and prosciutto on top.   The bread on the right was made with Udi's pizza crust and pesto.  The one on the left was a corn product, but the chef did not mention the brand.  

My favorite brunch dish at Palo was the cold strawberry soup, which tasted like strawberry mousse.  It was heavenly!  

For brunch, Palo has a large selection of food set up buffet-style, but you can also order pizzas, pasta, and entrees from the kitchen.  

I ordered a margherita pizza on an Udi's pizza crust, which my husband thought was good, but I didn't enjoy it because of the tomato sauce.  If I had know it had tomato sauce, I would have ordered the pizza without it.  

Our pesto pasta dish was excellent, and you would never have known the noodles were gluten free.  

Our final entree was a tilapia dish with risotto, which we both enjoyed.  

For dessert, I was presented with a plate full of gluten free desserts.  My favorite was the berry panna cotta in the back, which I could have eaten several of, but I resisted ordering more.  

Our table overlooked the ocean, and it was nice to have some quiet time away from the kids.  

Two days later, we dined at Palo for dinner.  We started off with a plate of Italian meats, cheeses, roasted peppers, and olives from the antipasti cart.  With some rosemary garlic olive oil and aged balsamic drizzled over the meats and cheeses, my husband remarked that he loved being Italian.  We do love our Italian food!

I enjoyed the gluten free bread, but my soup was disappointing.  I have eaten the Tuscan white bean soup with prosciutto and parmesan cheese several times on the Disney Dream, and loved it, but my soup on the Disney Magic was tasteless.  

My husband and I also shared the Sicilian pesto marinated grilled shrimp on a mussel, crab, and cherry tomato ragu.  It was missing the pesto that was drizzled all over it when we ate this dish on the Disney Dream.  Again, it was a little disappointing compared to our meals at Palo in the past.  

Lemon sorbet is always a great palate cleanser before the main course is served, especially when I have been eating seafood.  

My wild mushroom risotto with fresh-shaved parmesan and a chianti reduction was amazing, and in this case, was better than the risotto I had on the Disney Dream.  The chianti reduction was so good, I could have licked it off the plate.  The risotto is an entree, but I ordered a small portion of it as a side dish to go with my beef tenderloin.   

The beef tenderloin "Palo" is usually topped with gorgonzola cheese, but not being a fan, I asked for it to be left off the dish.  My beef was incredibly tender, and it was seasoned well.  I ate each bite with the delicious barolo red wine sauce it was served with, and it was paired well with mashed potatoes.  

My biggest disappointment at Palo on the Disney Magic was that they were not willing to make me their chocolate souffle without 24 hours notice.  I have had this dish several times on the Disney Dream without any notice.  

My disappointment was lessened by the fact that they had three gluten free dessert options, panna cotta with strawberry-basil sorbet, zabaglione with sangiovese-infused berries, and warm orange almond cake.  My friend Sarah from Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free at WDW loved the orange almond cake she had at Palo on the Disney Dream, so I decided to give it a try.  

Our server Jane brought me a side of the vanilla bean sauce that is served with the chocolate souffle, which made the dish for me.  I am not sure I would have enjoyed the cake without the sauce, but together, they were pretty incredible.  In hindsight, I wish I had tried the other two desserts as well, but I was pretty full that night, and didn't want to go overboard with dessert.  

Our meal at Palo ended with a complimentary glass of brandy, lemon sorbet, and sparkling wine.  The combination was amazing, and not overpowering at all.  I was a little worried that I wouldn't like it, because I rarely drink alcohol, but it was a great palate cleanser after a big meal.

Overall, I enjoyed both of our meals at Palo on the Disney Magic, but I preferred brunch and dinner at Palo on the Disney Dream.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Gluten Free on the Disney Magic

Last week, we took a 7-night western Caribbean cruise on the Disney Magic.  Our previous 5 cruises on the Disney Cruise Line were all on the Disney Dream, which you can read about here.  

The Disney Magic, Disney's first cruise liner, was recently re-imagineered.  It is smaller than the Disney Dream, and less grand, but I enjoyed the more intimate feel of the ship, and that it had many fewer passengers.  My travel agent always notes my gluten/wheat "allergy" on my reservation, so that my service team is alerted ahead of time.  After boarding, I headed to Carioca's, which was open for lunch, to pre-order my dinner with one of the Head Servers.  I don't know if this step is necessary anymore, because the Disney Cruise Line is now marking gluten free items on their menus on all of their ships.  My friend Sarah from Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free at WDW recently sailed on the Disney Dream, which now has gluten free and dairy free menu items listed on their menus.  

After pre-ordering my dinner at Carioca's, I met my family for lunch at Cabanas, an indoor/outdoor casual dining restaurant that features buffet dining for breakfast and lunch.  I always ask to speak to a chef, who gives me a tour of the gluten free options on the buffet, which are plentiful.  On the first day, I enjoyed lamb chops, salmon, french fries, and mashed potatoes.  Almost every day, both options at the carving station were gluten free.  One of my favorite lunches at Cabanas was a lamb curry dish with rice.  

On occasion, I will ask for food prepared in the back, like the sauteed shrimp and rice in the picture above.  Gluten free dessert options are usually limited to Enjoy Life cookies, but occasionally they will have other choices like chocolate mousse or jello.  You can also walk right outside of Cabanas to Eye Scream to get a cup of gluten free soft serve.  

The first night of our cruise, we dined at Animator's Palate, where we experienced the Drawn to Magic dinner show, which we enjoyed more than the Finding Nemo theme in this restaurant on the Disney Dream.  The only naturally gluten free appetizer was the smoked salmon tartar, which I tasted, but did not enjoy, so I was thankful I had pre-ordered the sliced serrano ham without the tomato bread.  For the soup & salads course, I chose the roasted red bell pepper, zucchini and red onion salad with aged balsamic dressing.  Minus the onion, I really enjoyed this dish and the serrano ham.  None of the main courses on the menu were listed as gluten free, but several vegetarian options and lighter note offerings were gluten free, like the jumbo shrimp salad, grilled grain-fed sirloin steak, slow roasted breast of chicken, and the oven baked fillet of salmon.  I had the slow roasted breast of chicken with a baked potato and vegetables, which was very bland, and something I would not order again.  For dessert, I chose the walnut cake, which was more of a chocolate mousse layered on top of chopped walnuts.  I loved that I got to choose it, unlike all my previous cruises, where my dessert was always a surprise, and I could never pre-order it.  My family raved about the no sugar added mango mousse, which was also gluten free, but I did not try it, because I avoid all sugar substitutes.  

For breakfast, we ate at Lumiere's every day, except our Castaway Cay day, when I dined at Carioca's, which was the only Main Dining restaurant open.  We always ordered a large assortment of fruit, like berries, kiwi, mango, papaya, and pineapple.  These items were not listed on the menu, but our server Pedro gladly arranged for them to be brought out at both breakfast and dinner for us.  Most days, I ordered poached eggs with bacon and sausage, and I also tried their gluten free pancakes, which are pretty good.  I pre-ordered all of my breakfasts at dinner the night before with Pedro.  Sadly, still no gluten free Mickey waffles, but they do have gluten free frozen waffles, muffins, and donuts available.  

One morning, I did allow our server to bring me a gluten free donut, but I prefer to start my day with a healthier breakfast.  

The next night of our rotational dining, we had dinner at Carioca's, which serves South American specialties.   My appetizer, the Peruvian Causa, which featured yellow, blue and white potato with cucumber, olive-tomato salsa and huancaina sauce was good, and so was my Havana-style black bean soup with olive oil. For a main course, I ordered the lobster, shrimp and salmon skewers with Peruvian quinoa, but I preferred the garlic rubbed roasted beef ribeye with jack cheese double baked potato and roasted vegetables that I shared with my brother.   

The highlight of my meal though was the Suspiro Alimenea, which is baked lemon cream, topped with port wine meringue and cinnamon.  It might have been my favorite dessert of the cruise.  

Night three, we dined at Lumiere's, which has a similar menu to the Royal Palace on the Disney Dream.  I didn't really enjoy my leek and potato soup, but the red wine bosc pear salad was delicious.  My filet was cooked and seasoned perfectly, and I finished my dinner with an amazing creme brulee. 

On night four, we were back at Animator's Palate, which featured a menu that was being served in all the Main Dining Restaurants that evening.  The one and only appetizer was gluten free, but the soup was not, so Pedro brought me a dish with tomatoes and goat cheese.  I enjoyed the shrimp & lobster, and small Caprese salad on my appetizer plate, but didn't try the duck.  For dinner, I ordered lamb with roasted vegetables, which was one of my favorite dinners on the cruise.  There weren't any gluten free dessert options on the menu, but Pedro brought me a beautiful dessert with layers of chocolate cake and chocolate mousse.  It was so good, I could have eaten it every night!  During our second meal at Animator's Palate, we got to experience the Animation Magic dinner show, where we drew our own characters, then got to watch them become a part of the show.  Everyone was so excited to see their drawings come to life, dancing with Disney characters on large screens on the walls.

We had dinner at Palo on Pirate's night, but rejoined my family for dinner at Carioca's on the 6th night of our cruise for the Captain's Gala.  I loved my two starters, the aged prosciutto served with sun-dried tomatoes, shaved parmesan, and roasted garlic, and the Asian pear, sweet corn, and jicama slaw with avocado puree and lime vinaigrette.  I am glad I ordered two main courses, because I wasn't crazy about my oven-baked lobster tail.  I really liked the bean casserole and saffron rice that accompanied it, but the lemon butter that was served with the lobster tasted a little weird to me, maybe because it lacked salt.  My second entree was a vegetarian option, the green pea and fava bean risotto drizzled with pesto sauce.  It was creamy and full of flavor from the cheese and pesto sauce.  

For dessert, I chose the banana foster sundae, which was good, but I preferred the banana creme brulee my brother ordered.  I stole a few bites before he dug in, which thankfully he didn't mind, because he ordered two desserts.  

For our final dinner of the cruise, I ordered a gluten free version of the lobster bisque, which was not labeled gluten free on the menu.  I only took a few bites, because the soup did not appeal to me.  I also did not enjoy the main course I chose, the roasted red snapper served on a bed of fennel, olives, sweet peppers, and a Yukon Gold potato ragout with saffron broth.  Thankfully, my husband had pre-ordered the risotto we liked the night before.  All the gluten free desserts on the menu were also no sugar added, but Pedro brought me some chocolate mousse with berries.  The Till We Meet Again meal at Lumiere's was my least favorite dinner of the cruise, but it was nice to have a night where I didn't feel like I ate too much.  

Dining gluten free on the Disney Magic was a little easier than my previous cruises on the Disney Dream, because the Disney Cruise Line is now marking gluten free options on their menus.  Every night, four gluten free lighter note offering are available: grilled grain-fed sirloin steak, slow roasted breast of chicken, oven baked fillet of salmon, and a salad with either chicken or seafood.  These entrees, which are also dairy free except the salad, are served with garden vegetables and your choice of steamed white rice or baked potato.  There were also plenty of vegetarian options. 

Gluten free bread is available, but Disney Cruise Line is still using Ener-G rolls, which are not very good if they are not heated well, so I told our serving team not to bring me bread after the first night. 

The only food I ate on the ship that I brought with me were two cups of Canyon Oats sweet honey cinnamon oatmeal.  I wanted to make sure I had some lighter options on hand for breakfast if I was eating too much for lunch and dinner.  I was really worried going into this cruise that I would gain a lot of weight, which is certainly not ideal right before I start my Christmas baking, but I walked 4 miles every day on the ship, and managed to lose the one pound I gained as soon as I got back.

A big thank you to Pedro and Dharma, our server and assistant server, for making our cruise so special.  My whole family loved the 7-night cruise so much, we booked a cruise on the Disney Fantasy for January 2016.  

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Whispering Canyon Cafe - Disney's Wilderness Resort

Yesterday, I had breakfast at Whispering Canyon Cafe with my friend Lorraine.  I have eaten dinner at Whispering Canyon many times, but have never had breakfast there.  Before we moved to Orlando, it was a favorite dinner spot of ours during our annual family vacation to Disney.  I don't have a dinner review on my blog though, because we haven't had dinner at Whispering Canyon in a couple of years.  I do remember that they have plenty of gluten free options if you choose to go with the Build-Your-Own All-You-Care-To-Enjoy Platter.  

At Whispering Canyon, you can order all-you-care-to enjoy skillets or platters at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or you can choose from a variety of different starters, entrees, and sides.  Our server Jeff explained how they prepare special diets meals in a separate area of the kitchen, and how my yellow meal ticket with my order would be kept for 30 days.  

Chef Angela said she could make me pancakes, waffles, or any of the egg dishes on the menu.  

I ordered Mickey waffles with maple butter, candied pecan topping, and bacon.  

My order came with three Mickey waffles, which were overcooked and had a slightly burnt taste.  I'm not sure what mix they are using, because it didn't taste like straight up Bob's Red Mill, Namaste, or Cup4Cup, the three mixes commonly used at Disney.  

I was hoping the maple butter would have a more intense maple flavor, and the pecans would be a little sweeter.  I ended up using some butter, pecans, and syrup on my waffles.  After I was done, I found myself wishing I had asked Chef Angela for the bananas foster sauce that is served with the french toast.  Bananas foster is one of my favorite toppings for Mickey waffles, which is why I always want to go to Boma for breakfast!  

Lorraine asked for ketchup for her breakfast potatoes, and we both knew what was coming....lots, and lots, and lots of ketchup!  

Overall, I can't say I loved my breakfast at Whispering Canyon Cafe.  The highlight of my meal was the bacon, which was thick and crispy, just like I like it.  I also enjoyed spending some time walking around the Wilderness Resort, which is one of my favorite resorts on Disney property.

You can view Whispering Canyon's breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus, and make advance dining reservations on Disney's website here.

What are your favorite gluten free dishes at Whispering Canyon Cafe?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Cinnamon Bun Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

Last week, I saw a recipe for Cinnamon Roll Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies on Lynn's Kitchen Adventures.  I love Lynn's baked oatmeal recipes, so I had to try these cookies, but decided to cut out some of the sugar, add some flax and more cinnamon, and make a thicker glaze to ice the cookies with.  

I just managed to squeeze 12 large cookies onto my baking sheet.  Thankfully, they barely spread while they were baking.  

I think I like these breakfast cookies better than the Cinnamon Roll Baked Oatmeal I love so much, and they have fewer calories.  With the ingredients I used, each cookie is about 190 calories.  

Cinnamon Bun Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies


3 C gluten free quick cooking oats
1 C lowfat milk
6 T (82 grams) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 T unsalted butter - melted
3 T ground flaxseed meal
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp kosher salt


1/2 C (58 grams) powdered sugar 
1 T heavy cream
1 tsp milk + more if needed
1/8 tsp cinnamon 


Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  

Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl, except the ingredients for the glaze.  Mix well, then spoon the batter onto your cookie sheet, forming 12 cookies.  

Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, then allow them to cool for a couple of minutes on the baking sheet.  

Combine all the ingredients for the glaze in a small bowl.  Stir well, then spread a small amount over each cookie.  The glaze should be thick and spreadable, like frosting.  Add more milk if needed.   

Recipe Notes

I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Quick Cooking Oats, and Bob's Red Mill Golden Flaxseed Meal.  

I froze all my leftover cookies, layering them between parchment paper.  I will reheat them in my microwave on defrost for 60 to 90 seconds before serving them.  

This recipe was adapted from a recipe for Cinnamon Roll Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies on Lynn's Kitchen Adventures.